How to Patch a Hole in Drywall

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Holes happen. Holes in the wall can range from the size of a pinhole to a large section that has been damaged by water or cut for home repairs. Many people will try to ignore the smaller holes and call in a professional to work on the larger ones, but do-it-yourselfers can make the repairs themselves with a little common sense and the right tools.

The Small Hole

College students are notorious for trying to cover up small holes in the wall made from poster pins and nails using the tried-and-true toothpaste method. This may make their room smell minty fresh, but it also only creates a temporary solution. Toothpaste should never be used to plug up a hole. The material isn't made to last, so it will become brittle and dry and eventually break apart.

There are small hole kits available, but all that you really need is a small putty knife and some spackling paste. With a small dab of spackle on the knife, you can fill and cover the hole up and, unlike the toothpaste method, it is a permanent solution. Spackle can be found at most home improvement stores, and even big box department stores. If you're in a pinch for a putty knife, then a butter knife or the back of a spoon can also work.

The Medium Hole

Affectionately known as the ex-girlfriend hole, these fist-sized breaks are the most common hole repairs. A misstep while moving furniture or a roommate with a foul temper can lead to these mid-sized holes.

Unlike smaller holes, these require a backing for the spackle to stick to. Otherwise, the repair is unstable, and the person fixing the hole will use considerably more spackle than is really necessary.

Measure the width and height of the hole, and choose a piece of backing this is a little larger than the hole itself. Backing is available at home improvement stores for only a few dollars, but items from around the house can be used as well. It must be flat and thin and easily placed behind the hole. For example, a soup can lid is perfect for those pesky fist-sized holes.

The backing needs to be securely placed against the hole. Cut two small holes into the backing and thread wire through one end and out the other. Cut horizontal slits in the hole to allow the backing to slide in easily, making sure to keep hold of the wires. The wires should stick out from the hole. Wrap a piece of wood around the wire to secure the backing to the wall.

With a putty knife, apply plaster or drywall patching to fill the hole. Spackle is premade and less expensive, but it will shrink. With the hole covered, wait for it to harden a little and remove the wiring from the backing with a gentle tug. Fill the holes with the drywall compound.

As with the smaller holes, there are kits available to fix medium-sized holes as well. Many have a sticky fiberglass covering that goes outside the hole rather than inside. These will work, but are more difficult to smooth out. Also, structurally, the hole isn't actually filled by these kits, just covered up.

The Large Hole

Major home renovations may require cutting large holes in the wall to get to plumbing and wiring, or water damage from a burst pipe can cause a large section of wall to be removed and repaired. There are two ways to fix a large hole in the wall: drywall patch and wall board.

If the area will require access at certain points, as is the case with wiring or pipes, then wall board should be used. A wall board is a thin sheet of material that covers the hole and is nailed into place. It allows for the space to be covered, but provides easy access without cutting into the wall. The downside is that it covers the hole instead of fills it, so it's obvious that it is there.

A seamless patch involves using a piece of drywall or Sheetrock to fit into the hole. Drywall and Sheetrock planks can be purchased at home improvement stores. Cut out a piece of drywall slightly larger than the hole. Cut the hole so that the drywall patch fits into the hole snugly.

Before placing the patch, put a board behind the hole to act as a support and screw it into the drywall using drywall screws. Place the patch into the hole, so it is even with the wall. Use spackle or plaster and a putty knife to fill in the crack between the wall and the patch.

Finishing Touches

No matter how well a drywall repair job is done, the area must be sanded down so that it is smooth and flush with the wall. This can be done with sandpaper or a sander. A sander is fast, but it will also create a significant amount of dust, so always be careful and wear the proper goggles and face masks for protection. With the patched area smooth and flush with the wall, cover it with matching paint so that it blends in with the rest of the room.

Last Updated: January 28, 2012
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About Brock Cooper Brock Cooper is a freelance writer for IdealHomeGarden.com. 

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